US Fights Russia Over Alleged BTC-e Founder Extradition
A Greek court cleared the way for Alexander Vinnik, a suspected operator of the Bitcoin exchange formerly known as BTC-e, to be cleared for extradition to the United States. Vinnik faces money laundering charges in the US. However, as a Russian citizen, Vinnik protested the extradition to the US and agreed to surrender himself to Russia. Russia issued an extradition summons that the Greek court upheld.
The FBI fined Vinnik $12 million and fined the Bitcoin exchange $110 million for violating US anti money laundering laws. The US fined a non-US Bitcoin exchange for not collecting personal identification from every US custody. Vinnik claimed that his only time with BTC-e was as a contractor. He denied any allegations that he owned the exchange.
In Russia, Vinnik faces charges for fraud amounting to $11,500. After Vinnik appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian Ministry announced that the extradition violated international law. The Council of Judges in Thessaloniki did not object to Vinnik’s Russian extradition. “Vinnik has agreed to be handed over to Russia and there’s no reason not to do so,” the Greek prosecutor said. He suggested that the Greek courts satisfy Russia’s request.
Vinnik’s lawyer announced that Vinnik denied the charges in Russia as well, but agreed to be sent to Russia instead of the United States. When asked by Greek authorities why he wanted to return to Russia, Vinnik responded: “I have nothing to do with the United States. I am a Russian citizen and will let the court in Russia deal with it.”
Not long before the Russian extradition request, the Greek court approved the extradition to the United States. Afterwards, the deputy leader of the Federation Council said that Russia just used every legal action possible in order to protect Vinnik from extradition to the United States. “Russia must protect its citizens. We do not extradite our fellow citizens under the Russian Constitution, we take all measures to protect them abroad,” Alexandrov said.
A member of the State Duma’s international affairs committee commented on the situation as well. He said that Russia still has a chance to get Vinnik back to Russia and that they must exhaust every possible option to do so. He also said that the United States continues to involve themselves in situations they do not belong in, especially with regard to technology related crimes.
Vinnik is the seventh Russian citizen to be indicted by the US in 2017.
The 38-year-old Russian citizen was arrested by Greek authorities at the request of the US government in July. The US accused him of running BTC-e since 2011 and intentionally allowed the laundering of the proceeds from internet crime. According to the US, Vinnik laundered $4 billion in Bitcoin.